Business trip: longer and more comfortable

Frankfurt The fears of many airlines and hotel operators at the beginning of the pandemic have not been confirmed. Instead of permanently cutting travel budgets, companies are sending their employees back on business trips. Yaël Klein, General Manager of American Express Global Business Travel in Germany, says: “There are more business trips again.” This is also shown by the growth in meetings and events. According to Amex GBT, it is the world’s largest business travel service provider.

“In the third quarter, business trips were back to 71 percent of the pre-crisis level. The smaller companies in particular are more advanced than the corporations,” says Klein. Assessments by other industry managers confirm this. Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr recently said: “Business travel has taken a very dynamic rise, we are currently at 70 percent of the pre-crisis level.”

However, the duty trip is changing significantly. Short trips are passé, if you travel, then several appointments are combined. Many companies also allow their employees more comfort. These are the most important trends:

Working from home drives business trips

It might sound amazing at first, but working from home is driving people to travel again. “The home office is now widespread, companies are considering how they can preserve their own culture and the sense of togetherness in this situation,” says Klein from Amex GBT. The companies would therefore invest more in meetings and in the community – and thus also in business trips.

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It could be that the curve flattens out a bit in the coming year, but Klein is convinced that the basic trend towards business trips will remain intact: “It’s not just a catch-up effect.” Jens Bischof, head of the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings, also sees this. So: “Travelling is currently increasing in almost all branches of industry.”

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More and more people are returning to their offices, at least temporarily. But working from home remains an integral part of the job. The Ifo Institute recently published the results of a global survey. After that, the approximately 36,000 participants in 27 countries work from home for an average of 1.5 days. Another result of the survey: The company managers would find it better if the employees only worked from home for an average of 0.7 days.

Appointments are bundled

The travel budget of many companies is currently limited. In the pandemic, budgets have been shut down for months. Many managers find it difficult to give up the welcome savings again. Especially if it should actually come to a severe recession. The travel budget is one of the items that companies cut first. Companies such as Evonik and Mercedes have already announced this.

One way to go easy on the budget is to bundle appointments into one trip. This is exactly what is already happening, as the “Business Travel Index” of the business travel service provider Airplus, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, shows. According to this, business trips in the first half of 2022 lasted an average of 6.3 days. Three years ago it had only been five days.

For long-distance trips to other continents, employees took 14.5 days in the first six months, compared to 11.6 days in 2019. At the same time, the companies avoid short trips as far as possible. According to Airplus, day trips accounted for only seven percent of all business trips in the first half of 2022; in 2019 their share was 17 percent.

Vacation and work at the same time

The trend towards so-called workation is evidently gaining ground. Business and private trips are being combined more and more frequently.

(Photo: obs)

Business class is booked more frequently

It is also noticeable that the companies treat their staff to a little more comfort when travelling. According to Airplus, companies booked business class more frequently in the first half of 2022. This category accounted for 13 percent of service tickets, compared to nine percent in 2019. The proportion of business class tickets has also increased on shorter domestic flights – from five to twelve percent.

The trip on behalf of the employer is made even more comfortable by another development: when flying, it is more often direct. Connections with a change are becoming rarer. For Klein from Amex GBT, this trend also has to do with the growing awareness of many companies for the topic of sustainability. “Sustainable means, among other things, choosing more direct flights,” says the travel expert. Transfer flights could be cheaper. “But taking off and landing twice is not good for the environment. And it’s not good for the employee either.”

Amex GBT has therefore further developed its own booking engine accordingly, the price is no longer decisive. “For many years, the internal policy in most companies dictated the cheapest trip. It’s over. The task now is to find the most sustainable trip,” says Klein.

Business and private trips are combined

And another trend is emerging: business trips are more often combined with a private trip. Experts at Airplus suspect that this trend, known in specialist circles as “bleisure travel” – bleisure stands for the combination of “business” and “leisure” – is another explanation for the longer journeys.

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This fits with the findings of the tourism industry. There, the term “workation” makes the rounds, which describes the combination of vacation and work. Thanks to modern communication options, more and more people are occasionally doing their job from their holiday home.

One advantage: the cost of the trip is shared. This should also go down well with companies because business trips are becoming more expensive. “The costs for business trips are increasing – not only for the flight, hotels are also becoming more expensive,” says Klein from Amex GBT and gives examples: “In our study on hotel prices in 2023, for example, we assume a price increase of 7.5 in Frankfurt percent off. In London it is 6.2 percent and in Paris ten percent.”

More: Legroom for everyone? Why there will soon be more space on the plane

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